Water – a trading good or human right?

The lecture on Water – A Trading Good or Human Right? highlighted the topic water from two perspectives. Prof. Dr. Christian Rüttgers and Prof. Dr. Stefan Heinemann of the FOM University in Cologne discussed the economical and ethical aspects of water supply in Germany and developing countries. The WSCC 2017 follows the sessions of the academic year 2017 in Cologne, dedicated to the topic water, and reports them for the WSCC 2017 community.

Prof. Dr. Christian Rüttgers introduced the first part of the session with the open question if water (tap or bottled) is more related to a) a hamburger or b) (fresh) air? He explaines that water from bottles differs in its quality standard hardly from other commercial goods such as bread, fruit or even a television. In the case of water supply this is totally different: the water network within a distribution area has the character of a natural monopoly. This means: It makes sense if only one provider supplies the water pipes. Thus, there is a particular market situation requiring governmental regulation. Prof. Dr. Rüttgers, is addressing a common demand that can have the most obvious economic disadvantages among other things. According to the expert “Saving water makes little sense in Germany”.

Prof. Dr. Heinemann continued in the second part of the session and considers the topic to be ethical. Water is primarily essential for survival. Does this ultimately mean that water is to be understood as human right? He talks about universalistic water ethics and discusses the question of how a fair and equitable distribution of this global core resource can be ensured. He argues that ethics is not compatible with economy and that nowadays economy has to take responsibility with increasing inequalities and insecurities in the provision of basic needs.

The session was closed with an open discussion between these two perspectives. The open question remains in how far we can achieve a sustainable and secure water provision globally, either with one or the other perspective, or possible further innovative ideas?

We are looking forward to continuing the discussion on this highly important question at the WSCC 2017 Conference in Cologne and gather our knowledge to find solutions for a water secure world for everybody.